Tuesday 17 July 2018

Father-of-three who claimed over €50k in fraudulent social welfare payments jailed

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Stock photo)
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court (Stock photo)

Aoife Nic Ardghail

A former Albanian refugee who claimed over €51,000 in fraudulent social welfare payments has been jailed for six months.

Father-of-three Besnik Vucaj (49) bought two Italian identity cards from a resident at his past address so he could claim rent and carer's benefits while working with a Dublin construction firm.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard he claimed over €51,000 in rent supplements and carer's allowance in four years.

Garda Thomas Burke said it would take Vucaj in excess of 31 years to pay the money back if he continued to set aside €30 a week from his wages.

Vucaj, of Corrib Road, Terenure, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to five charges of deception by inducing the Department of Social Protection to pay rent supplement at Harold's Cross Post Office, Dublin, on dates between June 2012 and March 2016.

He also pleaded guilty to three similar charges of inducing the Department to pay carer's allowance at Bank Of Ireland in Terenure from January 2014 to March 2016.

He has no previous convictions.

Judge Pauline Codd said that she was taking into consideration Vucaj's guilty plea, his co-operation with investigators, his lack of previous convictions and the fact that he has not come to garda attention since.

She also noted he was making an effort to repay the money. She suspended two years of a two-and-a-half year prison sentence.

The court heard that there is a little over €49,000 owed to the department and that Vucaj is now paying €100 per week.

Gda Burke said a department official turned up at the building site where Vucaj was working in May 2016.

Vucaj told the official he was Italian and gave him a false name and a PPS number.

The official then checked these details with the construction firm's owner and through further investigations, found that Vucaj had been working using two identity cards under this false name.

Gda Burke said Vucaj had claimed State benefits under his own name. The garda told Genevieve Coonan BL, prosecuting, that Vucaj had repaid €1,680 of the money to date by setting aside €30 from his earnings.

He agreed with Matthew Holmes BL, defending, that Vucaj made full admissions on arrest and had claimed he was under serious financial pressure at the time.

The garda further accepted that Vucaj said he had owed money to a man who used to live at his past address and had bought this person's identity cards.

Gda Burke also accepted that Vucaj was willing to repay the State €100 a week and that he couldn't get a loan with his local credit union because he hadn't built up enough history with it.

Counsel told Judge Codd that his client had come from Albania to Ireland as a refugee in 2003 and has since been naturalised.

He said Vucaj had never been in trouble with the law before or since and was very embarrassed by his offending.

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